Rethinking the design of presentation slides: The importance of writing sentence headlines

Michael Alley, Harry Robertshaw

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Presentation slides are often used for teaching engineering classes, presenting engineering research, and explaining engineering designs. For those presentations in which the presenter desires to communicate and defend results, using a succinct sentence headline for all slides but the title slide has three advantages over relying on a phrase headline. The first is that a sentence headline not only can identify the topic, but also can state an assertion about the topic. Emphasizing the assertions in an engineering presentation is advantageous, because audiences are more inclined to believe an argument if they realize the assertions and sub-assertions. Also, for a presentation that serves as a classroom assignment, having the student write sentence headlines provides a written record for the faculty member of that student's assertions in the presentation. A second advantage of using sentence headlines, rather than phrase headlines, is that a sentence headline can clarify much more effectively the role of the slide in the presentation. Such a clarification not only helps the audience during the presentation, but also serves the audience reviewing the slides days or weeks later. Yet a third advantage, and perhaps the most important, is that a sentence headline forces the presenter to come to grips with the main purpose of each slide. If the presenter cannot create a sentence headline that states the slide's main purpose in the presentation, then the presenter should consider cutting that slide from the presentation. For engineering presenters who have used this design, the result has been that significantly fewer slides are presented, thus helping the presenters avoid a frenetic pace, which undermines so many engineering presentations. This paper uses several examples from the Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech to show these three advantages. The paper also analyzes why faculty and students are reluctant to use sentence headlines. Finally, the paper includes a preliminary assessment on the effectiveness of these sentence headlines in engineering presentations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInnovations in Engineering Education 2004
Subtitle of host publicationMechanical Engineering Education, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Heads
Pages439-444
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004
Event2004 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, IMECE 2004 - Anaheim, CA, United States
Duration: Nov 13 2004Nov 19 2004

Publication series

NameInnovations in Engineering Education 2004: Mechanical Engineering Education, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Heads

Other

Other2004 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, IMECE 2004
CountryUnited States
CityAnaheim, CA
Period11/13/0411/19/04

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)

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  • Cite this

    Alley, M., & Robertshaw, H. (2004). Rethinking the design of presentation slides: The importance of writing sentence headlines. In Innovations in Engineering Education 2004: Mechanical Engineering Education, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Heads (pp. 439-444). [IMECE2004-61827] (Innovations in Engineering Education 2004: Mechanical Engineering Education, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Heads).